Pausing for Beauty with Nature Notebooks
My children spend a lot of time outside. They do not, however, spend a lot of time watching TV or staring at screens. This combination is producing some very observant youngsters who take the time to pay attention to the world around them and to notice the wonders of nature.
I came across a quote from Vincent Van Gogh (attached to my tea bag, no less), that brought to my mind my eldest daughter and the way that she interacts with the world around her: “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere”. Those words suit her so well.
When she steps out the door all of her senses are on alert. She scans the vista before her and cocks her ears to the sounds about her. She takes a deep breath to breathe in the scents and then skips off to whatever it is that grabs her attention for further investigation. Soon I hear the call of “Mommy! Come look!” and I know she has found or seen something that speaks beauty and wonder to her and she wants to share it with me. If her discovery is small enough, she will bring it to me to show me. Often her younger sister and brother get caught up in her excitement and share in the discovery as well.
To encourage my little ones to continue making discoveries, and to look closely and truly observe what they see, I follow Charlotte Mason’s suggestion to keep Nature Notebooks. Each child has his or her own blank notebook that he or she fills with sketches or paintings of natural objects that appeal to them. Opposite the artwork is a page for writing notes about the object, such as where it was found or some interesting fact. My eldest daughter is able to write/copy her own entries; her younger sister still gets help with hers. And little brother likes having his own book of blank pages to fill with nature-inspired art alongside his sisters.
For the most part, the children choose the objects they wish to sketch. If we make a find together, I’ll suggest to them that it could be something they put in their Nature Notebook. During school season, I schedule a time for Nature Notebooks, but during the summer, I try to set aside some time once per week to make an entry. Not that they need me to tell them to do it. If something strikes them, they will pull out their books and begin to draw it without my reminding them.
Miss Mason values Nature Notebooks because what starts as a weekly routine, becomes a lifetime habit, and eventually, a way of seeing life and science. The keeping of the notebook takes the curiosity of a child and develops it into a keen sense of observation; the world around him becomes his classroom and the working of nature his lessons. I can see the truth of this in my own children, but in true Charlotte Mason fashion, the process of becoming keen observers stretches over many years; as their bodies and brains develop and mature, so too do their observations and their ability to put down on paper what they see. I am enjoying the process.